Our Patheos colleague Timothy Dalrymple has posted a list of ten rules regarding interpreting the results of a presidential debate. For example:
1. Television pundits, in the immediate aftermath of the debate, are the worst possible guides to understanding the debate and how it will shape the electoral landscape. It’s just another spin room, except the allegiances and antipathies, the man-crushes and job tryouts are concealed.
4. Candidates aren’t out to “win” the debate. They’re out to win the presidency. The only relevant question — the only relevant question — is this: Did the candidate help or harm his chances on election day?
10. “Winning” the post-debate spin is more important than “winning” the debate itself. An otherwise brilliant performance can be undermined by a single wayward comment exploited in a million ads.
#10 strikes me as particularly relevant, given our culture’s growing fascination with memes. (Exhibit A: The “Binders Full of Women” phenomenon that dogged Romney following the second presidential debate.)